After a brief hiatus during which we completely exhausted ourselves running the Soul of the Blues Festival, we’re back with a special Long Island Blues edition of the Indie Round-Up.
INDIE ROUND-UP for August 11 2005
Kerry Kearney, Secrets from the Psychedelta
Slide guitar master Kerry Kearney is both a fine bluesman in the classic tradition and a creative all-around musician who doesn’t stick to any single sub-genre. In a mere 25 minutes, the Kerry Kearney Band’s new CD covers more ground than many artists do in a whole career – yet it’s all recognizable as the Kerry Kearney Band. The organ-drenched blues “Voodoo Down the River” and the equally keyboard-heavy “You’re Makin’ Me Sin” call to mind the Allman Brothers (whom Kearney has toured with) and Joe Cocker respectively, while the finger-picked “Passing Your Dying Eyes” is more like Eagles-meets-country-blues, with celestial mandolin by guest Jim Fleming.
“Gaslight” is a sweet-natured folky love song with Jack Licitra on accordion and vocals. “Planet Blues,” a good-time hard-luck boogie in the fine old make-the-best-of-it tradition, highlights Tony Campo’s considerable piano skills. Though Kearney is very much the front man at his shows, there’s always plenty of room for the rest of the band to shine, and especially so on this CD. (Even the accompanying mini-documentary DVD focusses more on the rest of the band than on Kearney.)
Kearney’s electric guitar dominates the original blues “Really Ruined It Baby,” where you can hear how, working with a familiar electric-blues palette, he’s developed a virtuoso artistic style very much his own, whether he’s playing slide, Allman-style electric leads, or, as in “Sidewalks of New York,” a sped-up Mississippi John Hurt picking style.
Tommy Keys, 2 Left Hands
Tommy Keys has done his part to preserve the traditions of barrelhouse boogie and stride piano at concerts all over Long Island for some time now. His first solo CD covers Pinetop Perkins, Otis Spann, Jimmy Reed and more, and also features five first-class originals, including the solo pieces “TK Boogie” and “Two Left Hands Boogie.” Though devoted to historical piano styles, Mr. Keys is no slouch as a singer either, lending his warm tenor to the original blues tunes “Rosa Lee” and “Swamper John,” sounding remarkably like fellow Long Islander Billy Joel on the ballad “Help You Understand,” getting down and dirty on Thunder Smith’s “Cruel Hearted Woman” and waxing lyrical on an out-of-place but loving cover of the Allmans’ “Sweet Melissa.”
The album features a good balance of piano features and combo arrangements with drums, bass, guitar and (especially) tasty harmonica licks from local blues mainstay Bob “Hooch” Paolucci.
, Back in the Groove
This CD has been in my car for over a year, because that’s where my best stereo is, and since I don’t write in my car I haven’t had a chance to write anything about it. But I couldn’t leave Little Toby Walker out of even a brief article about Long Island blues, so I‘ve finally forced myself to bring the disc in the house and rectify my error. One of the great fingerpicking blues performers on the scene today, Toby tours the world performing classic numbers and his own compositions. Like John Hammond Jr., he puts his stamp on everything he does, while revering the great players who’ve inspired him. Unlike Hammond, he writes scads of his own material, hence this CD of all originals.
Toby records live, using just his guitar, harmonica and voice, with no overdubs, creating new songs in the old styles. Lightin’ Hopkins, Robert Johnson, Merle Travis, Blind Blake’s ragtime guitar playing and of course Hammond’s syntheses come to mind. Toby inflects his strong, throaty singing like the Delta bluesmen he’s studied, visited and learned from directly, but unlike some white bluesmen who do this, he doesn’t sound at all inauthentic. In addition to being a scholar and a master musician, his live shows are full of generous storytelling and audience rapport, which can’t fully come across on this CD, but can be imagined from it. If you like acoustic blues and related styles, do yourself a favor and check out Little Toby Walker.